Winbond chip on hard drive PCB

Just another random chip photo passing by on the slideshow. This was the PCB on my first multi-gigabyte hard drive, a 2-gig Seagate Medalist (ST32122A). If memory serves, it came with the Pentium 166 I acquired shortly after the start of my second semester in college (the good old 386 was no longer cutting it).

Googling the numbers on the chip reveal that this is a “high speed CMOS static RAM” chip, though I couldn’t find any further information as to what it was used for. Since it’s a CMOS chip (and there is a battery-looking thing on the PCB) I would guess that it stored drive parameters and that it was programmed at the factory. Most likely the different capacity drives in the same line shared the same PCB, and they just programmed this chip as appropriate. It could also be cache memory, but that guess is just a stab in the dark.

Update: Based on the Wikipedia entries for SRAM and CMOS, it looks like this was probably the cache.

Quantum Hard Drive PCB

Some chips and things from the PCB of an old Quantum ProDrive LPS hard drive. I believe this 420-megabyte drive came out of the $2,000 Compaq Presario that was our first upgrade from the 386. If I recall correctly, we had to RMA the drive and they gave us a 520-megabyte model. My teenage self was so happy to have an extra 100 megs for free. Alas, they realized their error and sent the tech to install a 420-megabyte replacement instead. As always, enjoy the museum!

Update: I mentioned this drive in the Hard Drive Nostalgia post. Funny how I once again used the price of the 486 to describe it.

Quantum Hard Drive PCB

Quantum Hard Drive PCB

Quantum Hard Drive PCB

Quantum Hard Drive PCB

Maxtor 8051a 40-Meg Hard Drive

The last time I posted about my old hard drives, I mentioned the first one I ever owned, a Maxtor 8051a. Three days later, I took it apart. Tonight, a photo of it showed up in my desktop slideshow.

Maxtor 8051a Hard Drive
The intact drive

From the photo above you can see just how physically large the drive was (the little white plastic piece on the bottom left is the Molex connector). This behemoth could only hold 40 megabytes! My little slim smartphone, in comparison, has 400 times the storage capacity. Amazing.

Compared with modern drives, this drive was still using Phillips-head screws so it was relatively easy to take apart. If I had taken it to the data shredder, they would have pierced a hole in the spindle, and I couldn’t bear for that to happen. No, if my trusty old drive was to die, it was to die by my own hand. The first step was removing the cover and insulating O-ring:

Maxtor 8051a Cover Off

At this point I wondered what would happen if I attempted to power it up.

It’s good to hear those sounds again. They were always the first and last sounds I heard upon powering up and down my old 386. I will always associate the two. That was the last time the drive ever powered up. It’s not in the edited video I uploaded, but later in the unedited version I said “Goodbye, old friend”. How strange it is that we can develop affection for a piece of machinery.

Next, I removed the platters. I decided to keep them and stick them on my wall. My old school papers are probably still magnetically stored on the platters, on my wall.

Maxtor 8051a Read/Write Heads
The heads and actuator after platters have been removed
Maxtor 8051a Spindle
The spindle after the platters have been removed

I suppose I could have removed the PCB first, but instead I removed it after I removed the platters:

Maxtor 8051a PCB

On the PCB you can see 20+ years of dust formed around the motor. The motor was made in Japan by Nidec.

Maxtor 8051a Nidec Motor

I could have gone further but the entire process was too emotionally draining. In the end, I just removed all the main parts. I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post. 🙂

Maxtor 8051a Parts
Goodbye, old friend

Hard Drive Nostalgia

As part of prepping for moving I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning up, deciding what things I want to keep, and what things I want to get rid of. One of these things is a number of hard drives that I’ve collected over the years.

20 years' worth of hard drives.
20 years’ worth of hard drives.

My first hard drive was a 40 megabyte Maxtor 8051a that was installed in my first computer, a clone 386DX-25. Back then, any PC that was not name brand was called a clone (compare with “white box” today). This basically meant any PC that was not an IBM or a Tandy.

Maxtor 8051a (Top)
Maxtor 8051a (Top).
Maxtor Quality
Maxtor Quality.

This was the only hard drive I found that doesn’t really resemble a modern hard drive. You can see the PCB is huge and is separate from the casing housing the platters. The PCB also looks more like something out of a radio than a computer, but I suppose all computer parts back then had big protruding chips.

Many chips.

Something I’m very nostalgic about is the sound of my first computer. In those days CPUs didn’t have heatsinks, let alone fans, so the loudest component by far was the hard drive. Upon turning on the computer, the Maxtor would spin up with its distinctive spin-up sound, each of the floppy drives (we had two drives back then, a 5.25” and a 3.5”) would do a seek (boot up floppy seek anyone?), and then the BIOS would beep before loading DOS.

When you do something every day, its characteristics and its sequence becomes a part of your memory. For me, the something is turning on the computer, the characteristics are the sounds, and the sequence is what I previously described. It was like a sing-along; I’d hum the sounds along with the computer. Even now, I can replay the entire process in my mind.

Turning off the computer is a similar memory. Every time I turned the computer off, the Maxtor always had to get the “last word” in. I made a video of the spin-up and spin-down of the Maxtor and posted it on YouTube. You can definitely hear the “last word” of the Maxtor at the 0:17 mark in the video:

As the 40 megabytes of the Maxtor started getting filled up, I began to pine for a new hard drive. The only problem was that I was a 12 year old kid, and that hard drives cost an arm and a leg back then. I made do with PKZIP and moving things onto floppies. I don’t remember how, but eventually I convinced my parents to get me an upgrade. The result was another 40 megabyte drive, what I fondly remember as the “D: Drive”, a Conner CP3000:

Conner CP3000
Conner CP3000, my 2nd hard drive.
Conner CP3000 (Bottom)
Looks a little neater than the Maxtor.

Life was pretty sweet with 80 megabytes of hard drive space, but that was lower-classmen stuff. It was soon senior year of high school, and I “needed” more processing power, more storage. Enter my next computer, a two-thousand dollar (wow!) Compaq Presario with a 486SX2-66 processor.

The 486 was one of those PCs that had a built-in monitor and speakers. The hard drive inside that PC was a 420 megabyte Quantum ProDrive LPS. It, too, had a distinctive sound, but instead of spin-up or spin-down it is the seek sound that I remember fondly. I remember the nights of doing homework and listening to that hard drive click while it accessed virtual memory. You can hear the clicking at the 0:10 mark of this video:

Good times!

Because I started off modestly, I was always of the mindset that I didn’t have that much hard drive space and that I didn’t have that many hard drives. I was pretty surprised to see how many hard drives I’ve collected over the years. The ones pictured here don’t even include all the hard drives that are still in service in active systems. I am sad to dispose of these hard drives, which is why I’m writing about them here. With the photos and videos, I will always have a record of them without having to use up valuable space to store them. Below is a gallery of some of the more interesting hard drives. I hope that when you view them you will be nostalgic as well.

And lastly, just for kicks, a video of a drive that failed to stay powered on: